One of my friends found a great way to encourage her son to pray. At the beginning of the year, they wrote down the names of twelve people outside of their family who were special to them. Each name was written on a separate slip of paper and placed in a bowl. On the first day of each month, her son would draw a name for that month. She and her son would call the person and ask if they had any special prayer needs. The rest of the month, they would spend focused time each day praying for that person’s needs. She said it was amazing to her how many of the people would call back at the end of the month and tell her not only how special it made them feel, but also how many prayers were answered.
There are so many interesting and fun ways to teach your child the power of having a meaningful prayer life. Teaching your children to talk with God regularly and from their hearts, is one of the most important things you will ever teach them. While rote prayers can have their place, it is important to encourage our children to use their own words and have regular conversations with God in prayer. So what are some other interesting ways to encourage your children to pray? Here are some of my favorites.
- Prayer rocks are great for reminding children to pray without ceasing. The original idea (as I was told it) was to wrap a special rock in fabric. Or you might find a rather large stone and have your child paint the word “pray” on it. The child places the rock on his pillow. When he sees the rock at bedtime, it reminds him to pray. After he prays, he throws it on the floor somewhere where he will see it first thing in the morning. Once he prays in the morning, the rock goes back on the pillow to remind him to pray at bedtime.
- Want to make prayer rocks even more interesting? Make one for every member of the family with their name on one side of the rock and the word “pray” on the other. Each day, a different person is the “reminder”. The reminder is allowed to place family members’ prayer rocks anywhere in the house he thinks that person will see it with the “prayer” side up. Once the person sees it and prays, they turn the rock over to the side with their name. The “reminder” checks periodically and any rocks that have been flipped to the name side, she can then move to another location. At the end of the day, talk about what happened. Where did people find their prayer rocks? Was it hard or easy for them to pray when they found them? What did they pray about (if they want to share)? Did anything interesting happen during the day? Did they find they were praying more? You don’t necessarily need to do it every day, but pull it out on rainy, homebound days and switch “reminders”.
- Keep a monthly or weekly family prayer chart on your refrigerator. Print off sheets with prayer verses printed on them. Use bright colors and interesting fonts to make it eye catching. Add lines where anyone can write in prayer requests they want everyone in the family to pray about that week/month. Encourage family members to check the refrigerator once a day to make sure they are covering the family’s prayer needs.
- Make a prayer binder from your sheets or create a prayer journal. When prayer requests are answered (remember, “wait” and “no” are answers), record the answer and the date next to the requests. Periodically pull out the binder or journal and discuss it as a family. How has God been working in your lives and the lives of those you love? Have you seen him moving you towards or away from something or someone by the way he answered your prayers?
- Teach your child about “driving” prayers. Your child doesn’t have to be old enough to drive to learn how to pray “driving” prayers. One of my friends described driving prayers, as prayers motivated by what you see as you drive around town. (We have really long commutes in Atlanta, where we can be sitting still in traffic for hours at times.) See an ambulance? Pray for the people they are helping and their health and the support of their loved ones. Drive by a school? Pray the students are exposed to God’s Word at some point in their lives and choose to obey it. See a beautiful rainbow? Thank God for the beauty he created and His faithfulness to His promises. You can pray “driving” prayers while walking, riding in a train or looking out the window of your room. The point is to teach children to let their experiences remind them to talk to God about everything.
- Have a special family prayer time which focuses on one particular type of prayer. Perhaps you have decided to focus on prayers of thanksgiving. Have everyone bring something that is important to them or a photo of a blessing God has given them in the last month/week/day. After everyone shares, spend time in prayer where everyone in the family thanks God specifically for His particular blessings to them. Maybe you want to focus on praising God. Have everyone find their favorite Psalm or verses glorifying God and read them to the family. Forgiveness? It may be time to have a devotional about what Jesus had to say about forgiveness. The idea is to focus on how to pray the various types of prayers, by teaching your children intentionally what types of things God wants us to pray about. Even though most of us are really good about praying requests, a review of how God answers prayers might be fun. Especially, if parents share about the prayers they prayed when God said “no” and why they are so thankful He did! Your children may already have some examples of their own.
If you have tried other ideas that worked for your family, I would love for you to share them in a comment below! Giving our children the gift of knowing how to have a meaningful prayer life with God is one of the best gifts we will ever give them.